By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt Chamber of Commerce held Botetourt County’s third annual “State of the County Address” last Friday at the Botetourt County Administrative Offices in Daleville.
Chamber Executive Director Khari Ryder served as master of ceremonies and opened the virtual event recapping the community about the Chamber’s activities in what Ryder described as “a year of uncertainty.”
The Chamber made the most of 2021, hosting a mix of successful in-person and virtual events and training sessions. It also saw an increase in membership, with 38 new members from March 2021 to January 2022. Additionally, on behalf of its members and sponsors, the Chamber awarded three $1,000 scholarships to Botetourt County high school students.
The new chairman of the Botetourt Board of Supervisors, Dr. Richard Bailey, served as a guest speaker. He noted that the “state of the county is very good” and that the “community showed resiliency and innovation” throughout the last year.
Bailey complimented Botetourt’s Fire & EMS assisting in administering over 1,100 COVID-19 vaccines last year. He also spoke about Botetourt Parks & Recreation’s working hard to ensure Botetourt youth would be able to participate in spring sports activities and highlighted “Movie Night in the Park.”
He also commended Botetourt County Libraries keeping the county reading despite the libraries’ doors being closed during the pandemic closures.
Bailey mentioned the arrival of the Munters Group to Botetourt and the company’s investment in the community. The Munters facility is planned to be fully operational by this summer. He made an additional note about the county’s universal broadband efforts and Botetourt County’s grants to increase coverage throughout the county. Bailey presented a video about a Botetourt student who spent time learning remotely and how the broadband expansion is for students in the area.
The board chair closed his speech, mentioning some of what’s to come in 2022, like breaking ground on the renovations of the Botetourt County Courthouse and the expansion of the County Administration Offices south end of the complex in partnership with Virginia Western Community College.
Bailey thanked the county’s partnerships with the Economic Development Authority (EDA), Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), county employees, public safety departments, and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
“It is my hope that we can stay patient and optimistic as we find our way through the end of this pandemic,” Bailey added. “I’m confident that by working together, we will win this battle. We are fortunate to be in the best county in this great Commonwealth.
“As stated previously, the state of the county is very good. And to throw a little ‘doctor language’ in, I believe the prognosis for (2022) is excellent. May Botetourt continue to be blessed.”
BCPS Superintendent Dr. John Russ spoke next. He shared the “stable” enrollment numbers within Botetourt County schools. He noted some of the academic achievements over the last year, highlighting the exceptional scores from students in math, reading, and science.
He noted the county’s “Virtual Academy” and thanked those involved, including the approximately 100 students currently active in the program. Russ mentioned hard work in maintaining school facilities. The average age of Botetourt’s public school facilities is 48 years old, which includes the brand new Colonial Elementary in Blue Ridge.
Russ recapped the county’s coronavirus relief funds and acknowledged the BCPS School Board and BCPS staff for the service and efforts during “two of the most challenging years (BCPS) have ever experienced.”
He looked toward 2022 and spoke briefly about a strategic partnership with an experienced consulting firm with many years of developing school division strategies. Russ also noted the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) new leadership “that will inevitably lead to many changes” while carrying out Governor Youngkin’s new education plan.
“Although I’ve highlighted a few accomplishments, as a school division in Botetourt County, this would not be possible without the great efforts of the students, parents and families, a supportive community, a supportive Board of Supervisors, great teachers and staff, and a supportive School Board,” Russ said.
Director of Public Relations at Virginia’s Blue Ridge (VBR) Taylor Spellman gave a brief presentation about tourism in Botetourt County and what brings visitors into Botetourt to experience some of the county’s history, hospitality, and annual events.
Spellman mentioned publications that featured Botetourt County throughout 2021 and VBR’s and Botetourt County’s collaborations to bring media to the Roanoke Valley, such as the “Flex & Flow” summer camp at The Preserve in Fincastle, which brought in 35 fitness influencers.
County Administrator Gary Larrowe answered some questions presented by the community. He spoke about “the reach of Botetourt” and thanked the people he works with every day who work hard to extend that “reach” within the county and worldwide.
Larrowe commended the county bringing in the Munters Group during a pandemic. He mentioned the community wanting to know about new businesses coming to Botetourt in the future. Larrowe explained that while a new “pipeline” of businesses is developing in Botetourt, they cannot reveal too much info about those businesses.
“We would love to come back (to the State of the County Address) next year (look back on new business and report) ‘win, win, win,’ and we will, I predict, but before we get to that, we have to be ‘prepared, prepared, prepared.'”